FolkWorld Issue 34 11/2007; Article by Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

A Decade of Folk A Decade of Folk

A Decade of Folk


Unfortunately the Scottish band Capercaillie doesn't often visit the German speaking countries in Central Europe. This Saturday evening though Karen Matheson promised the audience that they wouldn't have to wait for so long to see them again live on stage. These were brilliant news for the fans that sometimes make long trips in order to join the celebration of one of Capercaillie's gigs.

I had a triple reward for my trip from Switzerland to the former capital of the German Federal Republic. First I spent a wonderful day in Bonn, making an interesting tour through the city, including a visit of the house where Ludwig van Beethoven was born; the house has been transformed to a museum where you can view lots of original papers, instruments and other gadgets.
Then I made a boat trip on the Rhein to the Siebengebirge (seven mountains) where I climbed the famous Drachenfels (Dragon's Peak, 1000 feet high), a place connected to the saga of Siegfried the dragon killer.

And then, at last the absolute highlight of my day, the concert started towards 6.00 PM with the sound check. It was great to watch these brilliant and experienced musicians at work, relaxed, smiling but very concentrated. Afterwards Karen signed some CD booklets and then the musicians disappeared for a while to discuss the set-list.

At 8.00 PM Donald Shaw on accordion and keyboards, Charlie McKerron on fiddle, Manus Lunny on bouzouki, Michael McGoldrick on flutes, whistles and uillean pipes, Ewen Vernal on bass, David Robertson on drums and Che Beresford on percussion came on stage to play "Homer's Reel". The passionate and virtuous playing of the six musicians instantly captured the audience and earned them a big hand that welcomed Karen Matheson on stage. Her first song was the Gaelic Waulking Song "Mile Marbhaisg" (A thousand curses to love) from their album "Choice Language".

I've seen Karen Matheson several times on stage, with Capercaillie, as well as with her solo programme or with Gilles le Bigot's project "Voix de la terre". Each time I was literally haunted by the sheer beauty of her singing and her charming nature.
'Since the early 80s they've been turning out breathtaking music based on the Scottish tradition. The voice of their lead singer, Karen Matheson, would alone be reason enough to buy any of their several albums. But add to that the inventive instrumental and song-writing skills of the other band members, and even a Scotsman's wallet should gladly surrender its contents.' [Peter Grant]

Capercaillie @ FolkWorld: FW#3, FW#8, FW#12, FW#16, FW#17, FW#23, FW#24, FW#28, FW#29, FW#31.
Her voice is perfectly trained and owing to more than 20 years of experience in the folk scene she performs ancient Gaelic songs, contemporarily compositions or even traditional folk songs from other regions and countries with unsurpassed virtuosity and feeling.

When the guys leave the stage and Karen sings to the music of her husband Donald Shaw her hauntingly beautiful singing creates a very special ambiance and she sings with such unbelievable clarity and ripeness that the audience is listening spellbound. Donald is an endowed musician, composer and arranger, and while Karen is the heart, Donald is the head and the nerve centre of the band. No matter if he plays the keyboards, accompanying mostly the songs, or if he accelerates the pace of the dance tunes with his accordion his playing is somehow the centre of the music.

Charlie McKerron is an extraordinary fiddle player who shows his virtuosity primarily with reels und jigs when he can improvise with either Michael McGoldrick on pipes, good example is "Kepplehall", or with Shaw on accordion. Capercaillie When the three guys are getting loud no one in the audience can stay put, everybody starts to clap their hands or move to the rhythm.

Manus Lunny is an important member of the band not only due to his bouzouki playing, but also as a composer and singer. The only Irish in the band has written some of the most beautiful songs of Capercaillie and his singing together with Karen is sublime.

Finally I'd like to praise Ewen Vernal and the breathtaking rhythm section that plays an important part in Capercaillie's world wide success. Songs like "Coisich a Ruin" or "In Exile" have opened a far bigger audience to the band with their stunning fusion of traditional rhythms with modern grooves.

After nearly 2 hours and several encores the band bade us farewell and the audience gave them a huge applause. A memorable evening in the city of Bonn took an end with a last drink and the incomparable sound of Capercaillie still resounding in my ears.

Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup was born and raised in Graz, Austria, and is living in the Wallis, Switzerland, since 1987.

Adolf is a regular reviewer for FolkWorld. He also contributed to, Pay the Reckoning, and

Photo Credits: (1) Capercaillie (from website); (2) Ewen Vernal, Michael McGoldrick & Donald Shaw, (3) Manus Lunny, (4) Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup (by Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup).

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